Monday, December 21, 2009

TARAS BULBA: “Light Painter / Death Stalker” double a-side c45 (Scumbag Relations)

I usually get really frustrated when a musician creates countless guises for themselves and their various stylized sounds, it gets so damned confusing, and I worry that I'll miss something that I'll really like because I won't recognize where it's coming from. However, I’m starting to realize that as long as the parties involved are doing great work, it doesn’t matter what the hell they call themselves, we’re gonna figure out what’s going on eventually anyways. Rasmus Svensson is quickly becoming a big deal, not just in his native Sweden either, and not just as a musician, but also as a zine maker, a graphic/installation artist, and all while running his own label, Push the Button Multimedia. Normally working with his other bands Smycken, PWR, and Night Piano, this is the first I’ve heard from Taras Bulba (I’m assuming that the change of title was in service of the noisier, grittier sound) and it certainly didn’t disappoint. As the title dictates, there’s a definite progression between the songs from a place of safety to seriously dubious surroundings. Starting out with heavy flute echoes, adding organic percussion, followed by ominous electronics, and finally concluding in a serious guitar-psych run through the jungle. I find it interesting that he chose to break it up into songs over one long composition, but it in no way detracts, it almost listens like a math equation, it’s the science of interesting transition. A really great listen and the same program on both sides works in its favor too (no rewinding, heavy replay).

One-color silkscreen covers (either copper or blue), black tapes with brown spatter paint.

http://www.scumbagrelations.net/

MAJIC EYES: s/t c20? (Eggy Records)

Okay, first, I have to talk about this label. Where the hell did it come from? We received three tapes in the mail from them, all good, all with killer design, colorful, and with a palatable universal composition (something I typically really like, a label “theme”). Turns out, they’re based in Portland, Oregon and have even started distributing tapes by mail order from other labels across the country as well. You get a distinct feeling that whoever is in charge is really enjoying the process involved in this, there’s serious love coming from this establishment even though it might just be getting it’s first legs.

The other tapes available are worth checking out, but I found this one to be the easiest to write about (which isn’t saying much, the general information on all this stuff is somewhat limited, either that or I’m just stupid). Basically, it’s a fella named Danny living in San Francisco making, as the label writes, “hazy pop of prime Elephant 6”. That’s definitely the quickest identifier of this music, simple chord progressions, ultra bright bass sounds, sometimes blown-out yet subtle recording, it’s like he heard the Neutral Milk Hotel records and said, “well, I don’t have a whole bunch of people who know how to play exotic horns or anything that can help me out with this, so I guess I’ll just do it myself”. And that he did, a really impressive and vivid album was made in this guy’s bedroom, for the first seven tracks, that is. The last is an extra long rambler outdoors (aptly titled “a midafternoon walk on prince to broadway in summer”), a real pleasant way to close this short introduction to something you can probably expect to hear a lot more about in the future. If this is your bag, definitely climb in.

Silkscreen covers, opaqe orange tapes with b&w labels

http://eggyrecords.blogspot.com/

JAMISON WILLIAMS: “Onassis Project” c24 (Closet Sorcery)

This is another one that hit me out of left field, really had no idea what I was getting into. Williams seems to generally to stick to solo alto sax improvisation on most of his releases, which he’s more than proficient at alone, but on “Onassis Project”, we find him taking up the role of “sound manipulations” (as he’s credited), a seamless rapid-fire, cut-up blend of his sax, vocal howls, harsh electronics, and the occasional found sound sample. I’m really used to a “wacky” sound when it comes to this genre, but Williams barely scrapes the surface of that adjective (maybe once with a Hawaiian record) but, on the whole, this shit is TIGHT. It’s divided into five songs, but that seems like kind of a vain action since the composition is pretty universal throughout and, since it’s a tape, there’s no real way to tell the difference between them, but hey, it’s his right as the artist. All of the titles are seemingly related to Jackie O and her legacy in some way and the inserts feature pictures of political dignitaries or something that were assumedly important in her life. So I guess there’s your answer, it’s probably all really significant, and it’s just wasted on an uneducated nincompoop like me. Regardless, it’s a perfect length tape for what it’s worth, but good luck finding a copy out there in the ether, your best bet is to get ahold of the creator himself via his normal outlet:

http://www.vantagebulletin.com/

Saturday, December 19, 2009

ROM B: “Incomplete Disco” c74 (self-released)

ROM B is the dark techno identity of Virginian Billy Brett, here bringing together three of his albums, “My Kind of Country”, “Business As Usual”, and “ROM B” into an incomplete discography (hence the title) on one really long tape. With pounding bass beats, synth stabs, and generally violent lyrics sung in a weird post-industrial nasal style somewhere between Swans and Aphex Twin, you can tell there’s a cool sense of sadism behind the knobs, a serious microphone mangler. These 36 tracks (all recorded within the last year and a half) definitely give you a full idea of what this music is about, almost to the point of beating you over the head with it, like a double-length greatest hits. The electronics are pretty active and powerful, my favorite being an extra long instrumental song on side two, but the singing can be difficult to attach to throughout, the “scary” sometimes ranging on silly due to the production (or lack thereof as it winds down). It’s most effective when smothered with heavy delay, giving it less of a “I’m talking right at you” feel and allowing the brevity of the lyrics a little more breathing room. I think if this tape were cut in half I would enjoy it a lot more, it’s currently suffering from what I call “Thanksgiving syndrome”, or putting out every song all of the time, considering them as having universal quality instead of, as they say, “killing your babies”. Still, there’s always something to be said for prolificacy and boldness, and there’s definitely plenty of that within.

Edition of 25 on opaque, orange tapes with color copy insert.

http://www.myspace.com/rombsounds

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CHARLIE McALISTER
"Turn of the Century Photograph"
(Unread Records) C30

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UPDATE: 3/10/10 - I am pleased to announce that a handful of songs from this cassette will be coming out on Charlie's first release for Feeding Tube Records: "Country Creamed/Victorian Fog" LP.

I first heard Charlie McAlister on a mix tape. "What is this demented rockabilly jam with all that fucked up banjo"? Sounded straight out of a "God knows when" time vortex. "A Hasil Adkins outake"? "Oh this was made last year"? Cool! The next encounter was the song "Sleep Walking" from an obscure 7" from the once published Whump Magazine that also featured Caroliner and a bunch of other great 90's stuff. Even cooler! Pop music with absolutely crucial organ sound and reedy vocals. Thus began the search to aquire more of the records and tapes McAlister has made throughout the years, and continues to make to this day. Many of these remain in print.

I'm choosing to review the decade old "Turn of the Century Photograph" tape because it offers a solid introduction to the McAlister catalog. It doesn't go as far out as some of his more collage-based recordings, but it has some really amazing skewed-pop gems. "Bog Man" has a mummy coming back to life to terrorize a small village, "Girls in the Big Parade 1917" has a wonderful WWI feel, and "Plantation of Pain" is just pure postbellum magic. If you haven't figured it out yet, McAlister creates true American folk music. It is the way he twists old stories and symbols into nearly incomprehensible new versions that has made him a legend of underground music for the last couple decades. The tape also has a very long and bizarre play about fried sandwiches at the end of the B side.

When I finally met the man, outside of his "Fire Ant Mound" in Charleston, SC, he took me 45 minutes down some railroad tracks and then told me and my compadre that he was going to cut our heads off. C. McAlister has a thirst for blood and it shows in his desperate recordings and works of art, which all come highly recommended.


"Turn of the Century Photograph" available from
http://www.unread-records.com (catalog #12)

You can get much more of Charlie's work at his website:
http://www.zen-grafix.com/charliemcalister/

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AMBERGRIS "Sherlock Holmes and the Large Door" (Potlatch, I Gather) C20

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Ambergris is the solo project of comic artist Matthew Thurber, the saxophonist in the now- defunct new age jazz band, Soiled Mattress and the Springs. This tape is the follow up to the amazing (and sadly out of print) "Anti Matter Alma Mater". Like the previous album it has a "book on tape" feel, with soundtrack and sound effects.

The A side is the title piece; a surreal story from the unreleased Sherlock Holmes archives. The detective, who we find is prone to walking about "on all fours like a mastiff", attempts to enter a sealed door lined with speared onions. It is refreshing to find a young artist working with actual ideas in this world of visceral and, sometime questionable, entertainments. Although this tale lacks the narrative scope of "Alma Mater" (it is about 1/4 as long), it is something I've returned to again and again whenever I'm sick of music.

The B side is a pair of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 covers. It's cool to hear someone doing Fellers music faithfully and accurately in this day and age. If by some chance this is your first time encountering this seminal 90's SF band, please do not hesitate to check out some of their stellar albums, which are still available in various formats.

check it all out at http://www.ambergriscomics.com
and be sure to pick up the new issue of "1-800 Mice" as well.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

COUCHIE POOCHIE
(Feeding Tube Records) C10

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The opening of this live acoustic set taped on a couch in Easthampton, MA is one of my favorite recordings in recent memory. That's not surprising seeing as Couchie Pouchie (a band with an ever-shifting moniker -- see Creepy Pee Pee, Crappie Pappie, Drippy Hippy) is comprised of D.B. Russell (The Frothy Shakes) and Tim Sheldon (Fat Worm of Error, Rack Rash - see review of the excellent "National Felt" in these pages) and the song is the Phil Phillips penned "Sea of Love". This much covered song is delivered completely straight and it's a soulful and heartfelt version, if maybe a tad creepy.

The rest of the tape veers into diffuse improv with Russell's high pitched and mongoloid singing/intoning accompanied by Sheldon's acoustic guitar and the singer's abstruse Casio sounds. The third piece is also a real winner; an ad lib with the lyrics "I wanna live in America, where the sun shines every day. Here in this real hell". A national anthem for these times if there ever was one.

Overall, a very deranged, yet surprisingly melodic tape of retarded half-songs. A reel winner! First edition of thirty or so still kicking, and I believe this will be reprinted by the label too.

the tape is available from feedingtuberecords.com

This is the band that later developed into Western Mass. super group Egg, Eggs - Ed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

MED.HAMMER "Shedding Life" (Existential Cloth) C60 Ed. of 20

Death drone. That's what this is. Simple, dark, heavy. I got my copy of this tape from Existential CEO Matt, himself on a recent trip up to Portland, ME. I listened to this driving done I-95 in the rain. I'm surprised I didn't drive myself through the guard rails into oblivion.

Shedding Life is just two thirty-ish minute live sets from their 2007 tour. Matt kept talking about what a blast that trip was. I would think these guys were dosing out on codeine the whole time, not partying. Goes to show you what I know. Maybe that is their kind of party. I wasn't there. I only know the end result, and its soul crushing.

So, to be clear, this ain't no Line-6 loop station mic and a singing bowl form of hippy drone. Shedding Life is one hell of a dark Thanatonic meditation aid. Next time I smoke salvia, I hope I remember to put this on. Hell or high water, it'll be a journey to remember.

Existential Cloth on Myspace.
Med Hammer on Myspace.

KID WIZARD "To The Stars By Hard Ways" (Hidden Fortress Tapes) C30, Ed. of 30

Space music for the lo-fi set. If there are two things in the world that I love, its DIY synths and tapes hiss on analog synth music. Both those are here in spades. Another tape that had a nice career in my car over the summer. Good for you, I haven't waited too long and copies are still available (at time of writing). But enough sales-hype, let me tell you about To The Stars By Hard Ways.

As notes warble on a home made mellotron (for real?), a filmless score is made, then bumped out of the way almost immediately by some juicy electro groove. That's the flow of this tape. Kid Wizard is a master of the medium. Only in the Bay Area would someone posses both the skill at electronics to build his own entire Synthsizer studio, and also have the musical genius to groove house parties like Kubric would have in the '70's.

If I were doing A&R for either Rephlex or Satamile, I'd be tossing this guy a cash advance. Some one, some one PLEASE put this on wax. It deserves it more than anything else I've heard this year.

Hidden Fortress Tapes.
Kid Wizard on Myspace.

THE MENTHOLS "Stereoisomer" C58 (Amateur Depression) Ed. of 100.



Who gave these kids the cough syrup? Garage punk that rides the line between total banality and total brilliance. Nine songs here that throb, swagger and pummel my brain and nether regions. Sympathy For The Record Industry dons it's Lufthansa cap, dusts off it's dog collar and bull whip and road-trips out to PA for an extended erotic, psychedlics-fulled one-on-one party with Siltbreeze. Extended interludes that are actually funny. I might be over-hyping this tape (could anything ever be that good), but even so this is some tight rock 'n roll. And, Jesus, just look at that cover art! Punk as fuck!

This tape sat way too long in my car stereo this summer to finally get a review, so I gotta tell you things fast and furious. Anyone reading this: jump on this band ASAP. If these dudes were from Brooklyn, they'd be internet famous already. Once an LP hits, I reckon The Menthols will be deemed CLASSIC.

Menthols on Myspace.
Amateur Depression on Tumblr.
Amateur Depression on Myspace.
Cut to the chase and mailorder.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TINY MUSIC: s/t c37 (Nihilist Records) & “F.W.S.S.” c76 (self-released)


This clanking collective of Chicagoans really know how to make an interesting din out of household objects. Using explicitly acoustic instruments, they can really clock out a cassette and give dudes with tables full of effects pedals a serious run for their money. Any electricity they do use is only to power their homemade gadgets, spinning chimes and slatted metal to scrape against. The actual list of items they use (included in the liner notes) is staggering, everything from drinking straws to window weights.

The music is always instrumental and generally dissonant, but the contraptions aren’t the whole of the music, there’s also a heavy use of various flutes and bowed instruments that, when the music does come together and become rhythmic, invoke an elven maypole dance, the family minstrel band doing some real medieval truckin’. I was a little disappointed that “F.W.S.S.” (which stands for "Fall, Winter, Sping, Summer”) didn’t really apply it’s seasonal motif more comprehensively; it seemed like each song, though possessing individual idiosyncracies, sounded largely the same structurally, with no difference in mood. Still, I think the potential of this group, both auditorily and in formation, is limitless, and look forward to future releases.

Both tapes come with xerox inserts, but “F.W.S.S.” has varied pieces of flora glued to the front and watercolored labels.

http://www.myspace.com/tinymusicband

Sunday, July 19, 2009

FLEABAG: s/t EP (ok records)


I LOVE THIS BAND. And that’s what I told them when I saw them live...after every song. I was in rare form, fully psyched before they even started, at one point even yelling, “fuck everyone I knew in high school for not being here!” That’s right, I was that guy that night, and I am NEVER that guy.

I hate to say it, but I can’t lie, I think a lot of why I like this Oakland trio (besides their just being really good), former members of Punkin Pie, is due to nostalgia. Hearing their melodic, pop-punk riffs and vocals that barely edge over normal talking volume floods me with the same excitement I had of bringing home a new Epitaph comp. CD once upon a time. Truly, this is the kind of music Epitaph would be putting out nowadays if they didn’t have their heads so far up their asses. Seriously, that shit is embarrassing.

Singer and lyricist, Marilyn, has an adorable voice and simple, concise words that stick to the roof of your mouth, my favorite being a line from the song “Coals”: “you know how that goes, we can laugh, but we’re never happy”. Songs about youth, relationships, and social awkwardness without an ounce of unpleasant sappiness. I really wish I had this available to me a long time ago...

This is a 5-song EP, same program both sides, on pro-dubbed tapes with xerox insert. No website (I think), but you can write to them!

1935 Linden St.
Oakland, CA
94607

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NATE GRACE: “Sevn Daze” c30 (Sonora Records)

There’s a lot to be said about genre fads, both good and bad, considering the negative connotation that the word “fad” comes with. Without turning this into some sort of college thesis about it, I want to state the fact that we all know that Ducktails has basically instilled a new craze for lo-fi beach-pop. It’s true, and if you need more proof, check out the Underwater Peoples Summertime Showcase comp., it’s all there. The good news is that, so far, it’s all been pretty darn good.

Enter Nate Grace and his Austinian cohorts, Jesse Jenkins and Austin Youngblood. Together, they play the golden trio of instruments (guitar, bass, drums) across five songs of tremolo bliss (it’s actually only 15 min., same program on both sides). Never mind the proficient quality of the original songs, their cover of “Pressure Drop” is worth the purchase alone. With clear writing structure, more CCR than they are Yo La Tengo, this really was a pleasant surprise and, on the second listen, these tunes already felt like old favorites. The quality is a little rougher than it probably could be, a little extra recording static, but that’s pretty much my only complaint. It’s a great EP and, sure, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who digs this sound (which is most of us), but I want to make it clear that the work is well-informed and that this dude’s not just another hayseed jumping on the bandwagon.

Comes with two handmade inserts in a stitched pouch wrapped in brown paper.

http://www.myspace.com/gracenate

Monday, June 22, 2009

SAM MARTIN: “Death?” c60 (Im Drinkin This Tapes)

A whole hell of a lot of songs (nearly thirty of them) by a seemingly earnest dude from a confusing record label. Martin, also of the band Capgun Coup, makes a simple recording playing acoustic guitar and singing in an “anti-folk” style reminiscent of Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis with lyrics that are sometimes painfully immature, with “cat sat on the mat” rhyme schemes about love, sex, booze, and yes, even the aforementioned cats. However, it’s surprisingly what makes this hour of poptunes somewhat endearing. The individual song styles are varietous and the guitar playing is tight. The tape hiss adds the perfect amount of flavor and, despite the content, Martin’s voice is that of a grown-ass man, both aurally and spirtually, ain’t no prepubescent uncertainty around this guy (thus my claim of his earnesty). This isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’m assuming he’s fitting right in with the singer-songwriter community of Omaha.

http://www.main.imdrinkinthis.railsplayground.net/artists/10

Monday, June 15, 2009

ULTRA BONBON: “Paradise” vols. 1 & 3 (Bonbon Bruises)

























Located in Alberta, Canada, Ultra Bonbon (Danny M.) is near-harsh noise handsomely packaged in mini manila envelopes with a theme that I have yet to put together. Is there a theme? Maybe not, just because it’s in volumes doesn’t mean there has to be one. It’s strictly electronic work, and not particularly dynamic, each side of these tapes is an island unto itself, one idea played without change. However, the tapes are short and the sounds are interesting, so it’s really not that big of a concern. Vol.1 starts out with spare beep-burps, synth gas bumping around in your stereo’s colon, then flipping to a somewhat similar sound layered with piano stabs, hitting the keys with oven mitts on. I’m not sure what the time span was between these two, but vol. 3 sounds much more developed, side one with some intense synth squeal and boxing bass, alternating from the heavy to the speed bag, and side two with space sweeps and what sounds like distorted kazoo.

Like I said, this is more about the sounds at hand, they’re almost like singles in this way, and he has many other split releases available from his label as well, all as beautifully designed but in very limited editions. I know you’re asking “where is vol. 2?”, and my answer is “I don’t know!”, but apparently it’s a larger collection that may be released on Golden Lab Records sometime in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see, but either way, with his vast self-released work and a cassette on Husk Records, it’s obvious that this dude is working hard, and that’s priority one in my book.

http://www.myspace.com/ultrabonbon
http://www.myspace.com/bonbonbruises

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NATIONAL FELT: s/t (self-released)


Fat Worm of Error guitarist Tim Sheldon gives himself a new guise as National Felt, remixing who knows what into what, who knows? What? Previously going under names like Oxbow Meads and Rack Rash, I’m pretty certain this is his first formal release explicitly sampling other formal recordings (first I’ve come into contact with at least), big time operator’s songs abused and rendered with Sheldon’s own sounds squawking and grinding around too. I envision a Hollywood studio tour passing a jukebox array of 90s top-ten artists struggling to film their music videos as workers loudly strike the sets behind them, as if to hurry the whole operation and get home already. It’s a pretty short tape too, probably longer than I think, but it’s such fast-paced, exciting work, this train blows right past you.

One of the things I love most about this tape is the packaging. It comes in a cardstock sleeve that not only is sealed by velcro on the front, but you see that smokestack? That’s velcroed up too. So you can either open it in this amazing way, or you can just slide it out the top, a really good example of creativity meeting functionality. If that’s not enough, the band name is etched onto the tape by hand. I don’t know how many copies of this Tim made, but still, holy crap!

No idea where to find it, try dropping the guy a line...

http://www.myspace.com/259246838

Monday, May 18, 2009

GASTRIC LAVAGE "Bloody Knuckles" c31 (Yod Tapes)

Chris Dooley! There are legends in western mass about him. Hell, there are legends all over the world about him, for real, whenever I go on tour and tell people I'm from Western Mass they're like "oh yeah, you know chris dooley?"! It's rumored there are multiples, people will see him skateboarding while he's on the radio and working at a flywheel benefit two cities away. He has an absolutely insatiable appetite for making things happen. That manic energy is maybe a little muddy in the tape but you can definitely tell that he's really having a go at it, totally shredding up guitars (and curbs!), screaming with a winter hat pulled over his face into an amp for 45 second before ripping one of the most unusual / intense drum solos ever (though the drums on this tape i believe are played by Andy Kivela).

The title of Bloody Knuckles for this tape is totally apt, there's even a sound clip of Chris saying "oh shit, are you alright, do you need a towel or something." Everything is shredded to pieces and flying, confetti style, in the air as Dooley lets his legendary energy loose on this c31.

Yod Tapes site doesn't seem to be up yet, but check back:
www.yod.com

MARK LORD "Pussy St. Tape" c27 (Nazot)

An absolute tarantula festival. Seeing Mark Lord perform a few times over the last year he has played easily some of my favorite and most captivating sets, one night completely unhinged another almost spartan, actually sitting (sideways!) on a stool adjusting his synth and barely talking into a mic. While live it was captivating, you were focused on the individual performing, whereas on this tape, like the best music, there is almost nobody present, you feel absolutely within the realm of the music and it is a convincing listening environment.

Whereas people are often looking to grab your listening attention with swiftness, unpredictable shifts and unrecognizable manipulations, this tape has an economy and intent too often missing from 'noise tapes' these days. Remarkable for not only its fidelity but (even more so) for its absolutely even arrangements and mixing, slight reverb on the tonal background is not lost amidst the staggering, stammering pulsing in the foreground.

The first side features some vocals that, in their lack of emphasis, find an almost authoritative tone that matches the dark but commanding presence of the synth work.

I can't say enough good about this tape. I really hope it sees a vinyl re-issue.
Highly, highly recommended and of course there's no site listed and nothing I can find on the internet. Good hunting, if you can track it down, it's worth it.

CONTAINER "Container" c30 (I Just Live Here)

At INC this year I bumped into a favorite dude/band/label guy of mine Ren from God Willing / I Just Live Here and asked him how his trip had been so far to which he simply responded "just long drives jammin minimal techno." Then we talked a good bit about the virtues of the genre, I probably made a dick of myself and he probably finished his slice of pizza.

Well, lo and behold, a few months later I set up a show for him in western mass and he hands me a tape by Container and whispers 'it's my new minimal techno project.' Well, if he ain't a man of his word!

The tape starts with what sounds like a creeping synth but very quickly it's apparent the dude was not lying, rhythmic to the core, mostly low end stuttering with the necessary 303 tweaking flourishes and bubbling, burping and percolating weird worlds on top, building and deconstructing the whole way. Slight reverb on the hi hat, heavy envelope effects end up eating the thing alive. Side two is a lot more thumping and has a more thudding 4 on the floor feel with a bit more background "noise" you might expect of a beat tape coming from a noise dude, but i'll be shit on if Ren didn't just deliver two sides of minimal techno for you all!

Always recommended!
I Just Live Here site is giving me some internet grief, but maybe not for you:
http://www.ijustlivehere.net/
and ren's god willing myspace:
http://www.myspace.com/innercarpet

Saturday, May 16, 2009

ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE: "Buffalo Hump, Moon Face, Thin Skin" C20 (Grimeology)



Crisp, clear harsh noise on a label that does great mastering to cassette. This is loud and bereft of so much hiss that would ruin the experience.

Aside from such cliched nonsense as "flesh peeled from bone by molten rusted metal" I can say this is well executed and dynamic. Israeli Intelligence wastes none of your time. The a-side is a deftly assembled collage of snippets of everything gross: overblown vomit growling, reverbed out tape scratching, feedback loops and metal abuse. Its all there. In spades. Love it. Everything last long enough to be savored, and cuts to the next serving before there's one iota of boredom sitting in. I wish my recordings came out this good. For real.

The b-side starts out similarily, but rolls along with a slower pace, more psychedelic a molten floe, not violent erruption .

I'm happily sitting in my kitchen flipping this cassette over and over whilst writing. After deluging myself with some downloads of the Japanese harsh masters this week, I'm still finding Buffalo Hump, Moon Face, Thin Skin exciting and inspiring.

Edition of 50
Grimeology.com

QUEEN VICTORIA: "Apocalyptic Field Recordings Vol. 1" C20 (They Live We Sleep)



Wes Anderson should ditch his hipster-defining retro fitted mix tape style soundtracks for this. Breezy, lite summertime music. Eerily nostalgic. 16mm film footage of a girl in a sundress dancing in a field. Like someone's first student film circa 1989. Naively arty, bereft of pretention.

The first side is more song-oriented, a blues riff quickly cut off is replaced by a toy melody Baroquely meandering around someone's reverbed out singing. That soon morphs into a pulsing rythmic electronic groove, which again, cuts deftly into a soft rock crooner by for the neo-hippy set.

The second side rules. Toy keyboards plink away in the foreground, while the other elements, drum machine and singing, are simmered down to a fine atmosphere through reverb, delay and the loss of tape-to-tape generations. Cherubic is a good word to use for Apocalyptic Field Recordings Vol. 1, but the image I used before, of a grainy film documenting lithe youthful innocence may yield a broader understanding of the total vibe presented here.

Theylivewesleep.sitesled.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

**vintage review** LADDERWOE: "Mourning The Late Jennifer" C30 (USAGOLDEXCHANGE, 2006)




Delirious, lo-fi, lilting gothic out-folk from some New Jerseans. I picked this up from a smelly guy on tour a while back and it's shifted from car tape drawer to bed room tape drawer to shoe box under a bureau and back. Housecleaning yields peculiar treasures.

New Brunswick bands liked to tour these parts a lot from 2003-2007. This project is/was related to, if not part of USAGOLDEXCHANGE, Door, and maybe even King Darves. In fact, the show I spoke of had three of the four bands just discussed playing and is the show where King Darves went folk. I got a big pile of CDr nonsense that night. I also miss the noise Darves, but I digress.

Mourning... is best at being succinct. More than 30 minutes of this would be too much. But two 15 minute slabs of eerie feedback, acoustic guitars and harrowing howls are just right. This appealed well enough to me when I was entrenched in my Neo-Folk fandom, as it does now as I'm starting to finally develop a taste for what some of my friends and I simply refer to as "hippy-drone-noise." I guess that's what I'd file Ladderwoe under. It's too weird to be anything really close to "folk," but there's still too much song structure (especially on the other Ladderwoe recording I've got) to really let this be straight up noise. In my opinion anyway, and I'm the one writing, so, yeah, this is my god damned opinion!

On here there's enough scuzz and hiss to keep anyone's inner experimentalist happy. This could have been recorded room mic style with a couple guys cuing tape players as they moaned about The Late Jennifer and plucked away on a guitar and hit some things resembling percussion. There's even parts where I hear dinner ware clinking. This reeks of a humid coffee house show in late sumer. It's as cozy as it is unnerving.



Monday, May 11, 2009

TERRORS: “Inequipoise” c30 (Monorail Trespassing)


Don’t let the fact that this is on Jon Borges’ harsh/drone-notorious Monorail Trespassing label fool you, this thing is straight-up pop music. True, there’s a little bit of ambience on the edges of these songs but, for the most part, it’s pretty structured. I don’t actually know who the members of this band are, where they’re from, or anything like that. I can’t even tell with great certainty what instruments were played at specific parts, the production effects make guitars sound like pianos and vice versa, which I believe are the key mainstays (with a couple of additional string appearances). The style is slow and echoic, sparse instrumentation, but a dense sound, with so much reverb that the lyrics blend into one another and the music seems to hold on forever. The liner notes state that it was “recorded in a window” (assumedly the one on the cover), and it’s almost as if you can feel each chord drifting away, out into the night air. Maybe it’s better that the source remains a mystery for the time being, this might even be their first release for all I know. Hell, this could BE Borges’ work for all I know, but take what I don’t know and stuff it in a sack, this tape has a great sound and a lot of replay value, highly recommended.

Ltd. edition of 125

http://www.monorailtrespassing.com/

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

EARN: “Away” c20 (Ekhein)


Earn is the new(er) identity of Matt Sullivan, also known to many as the hyper-harsh Privy Seals, and it finds him casting a comparatively gentle spell on his six-string to ring loud and ring proud, with a couple of tape samples trailing to boot. After a brief introduction, he delves right into “Wax Man”, which almost reminds me of a crisper Skaters recording as he drums on the guitar, creating a back-beat for his fingers to skip around. This is quickly followed by “Running on Soft Feet”, a super glitter sound that will really lull you into your comfort zone and get your serotonin flowin’, perfect to relax to on a hot summer night. Side B has another quick introduction, then completes with the title track, which (I think) is a general display of his chops, definitely most closely resembles what I saw him do live. The whole thing is a real pleasure to listen to, calming, drifting echoes, but it really hits you differently at the end when it fades into a sort of television static with strange “Poltergeist”-like sounds over it, almost gives what you heard a bit of a twist, leaves a new, eerie disposition in your mouth. Was that a spoiler? My apologies. Anyway, great melodic ambience at a perfect length by a real sweet guy.

I only more recently heard about Sullivan’s Ekhein label, but he’s putting out some really killer stuff by himself and others and, although he doesn’t have a website, his wares are readily available online if you look around.

http://www.discogs.com/label/Ekhein

Sunday, May 3, 2009

YEAST CURD: “Barefoot in the Dark” c47 (Excite Bike)

There’s a really surprising subtlety to this tape, a strange and almost hushed production quality that really sneaks up on the listener. Like the feeling you get after shaking hands with someone who has a cold, you walk around thinking “am I sick? I just sneezed, am I sick? Is my throat scratchy? I think my throat feels scratchy...”, and then you go to the movies with friends and halfway through you KNOW you’re sick. Maybe that’s too personal of an interpretation, but that’s the feeling that crept up on me...

Yeast Curd is another one of the endless number of music projects of Eric Frye, proprietor of Scumbag Relations. This one finds him squeaking, squealing, and sputtering sounds generated by what I can’t even imagine. The first side is more beat-based, loops that you can nod along to, while side two is more of the stuttering stereo sound, the radio station you just can’t seem to get to come in, slowly sliding into outer space echoes. A real solid formula from one of the lab’s weirdest (and hardest-working) scientists.

Edition of 70, sold out from the label, still available from all the regular distros.

http://www.scumbagrelations.net/yeastcurd.htm

Thursday, April 30, 2009

CM "Erotocomatose Lucidity" c30 (Closet Sorcery)



Usually don't like to google people / bands before I review them, it can give people and unfair (dis)advantage depending on what the ol' net serves up and then sometimes it is actually helpful (thereafter i'd go back and adjust my review) this is a great example of both of those cases. I was into this tape and had a fair amount to write about it: it would have been something about mechanical pets- what pets / domesticated animals represent to people and how mechanical reproductions of those externalized needs have an extra eerie air to them because they represent a totally perverted projection of those desires; also something about machine animals purring and maybe hunting instincts...

All that feels a little funny now knowing this is the work of Todd Brooks from the Pendu organization, a group dedicated to all sorts of buccaneering projects including one of my faves, Artists with Cats: http://www.pendugallery.com/artistsandcats/. Reading his page I was also informed his source material are homemade/modified oscillators, synths etc. You see where this is all going? The man has a wholeness of purpose. His manifest interest in occultism, cats, automatons, etc has come to pass on this tape. The first note (yes, i take notes!) I took while listening to this tape was "Animal electronics, calm" and I mention it not to point out my perceptiveness but instead Todd's evocative abilities with his electronics, atmosphere and arrangements. The tape is a great merging of canopied high end swirling and low earthy grumblings changing speed and desity slightly.

One other point worth mentioning, I suppose, is the cover. True to his interest in eroticism CM explores a motif in noise tapes I'm not entirely convinced of- a naked woman emblazoned on the front of the tape. Though she has her face collaged with some form of esoterica to remove it from the 'extreme' nude images that usually grace the cover of harsh noise / power electronics tapes, it feels like a forced version of 'erotic' whereas the suggestive elements of the music had more of an effect of me than anything that brazen. A minor point, but it speaks to the power of the music over the somewhat crass imagery.

Not sure of the label or the edition as my internet fishing turned up an empty hook. Definitely recommend spending some time at the pendu organization website:
http://www.pendu.org
and check CM's (Chaos Majik) blog for more info on the music and to possibly get yr hands on this tape:
http://www.chaosmajik.blogspot.com/
Pick it up if you can.

Monday, April 27, 2009

CAVE BEARS: “Horribble and Useless” c31 (Yod Tapes)

The entity that is the Cave Bears has been around for quite a while now, with a constantly rotating cast and a discography just as equal in variety, ranging from slowed down drone to acoustic boogaloo. This is, by far, my favorite release of theirs to date, and probably the closest representation of their “typical” live show. I put that word in quotes because when you go to see them, you never really know what you’re going to get. I hesitate to use the word “destructive”, but I think I’m okay with the word “messy”. I’ve seen them do everything from smash lightbulbs, pour mud across the floor, wear costumes made out of (operating) electric fans and (full) watering cans, and even bang on buckets while suspended upside-down from a tree while another member threw fireworks. So yeah, they’re a little all over the place, but they also have a general set-up of guitars and drums that they use more regularly, so even when it does lean towards being improvisational, you can usually tell it’s them.

There’s actually a surprising amount of differentiating composition on this tape, but it’s entirely cohesive. Cut-ups and samples flow freely and intermingle with original work very suitingly, foreign musicals laced through shrieking howls, guitar warbles, and a variety of squawking brass and harmonica. All of this is even edited at times, chopped & screwed on analog reels, still not upsetting the rhythm. There’s a large section of instrumentation that gets a little too calamitous for a little too long on side two, but that’s barely a beef, like a nuttier No-Neck Blues Band (bear in mind, I’m also notorious for preferring everything ultra-short). A solid starter for anyone looking to get into this band, or to prep them for their upcoming split LP with ID M Theft Able (who we all obviously can’t get enough of around here).

http://cavebears.suchfun.net/

Thursday, April 23, 2009

ID M THEFTABLE "id m + jay z" (mangdisc)



I was told when given this that a friend of id m's was sicklyillin and wanted there to be an id m theft able & jay-z concert. It unfortunately could not be arranged so mr. id m provided the next best thing - set up some studio time with jay and made a tape.

best rapper alive, what's up, I told you. turn the music up. woo.
I'm in my zone.

a good 45 minutes (plus) straight of
tiny cuts of jay-z acapella spliced together into quick sputtering rhythms, layered with shout-outs chopped short. everything stuttering and skipping in avalanche form, a few pebbles start it off and then it quickly gathers more, collecting all of jay's syllables and turning them into a crushing rumbling. unrelenting. like Steve Reich's
Come Out, after a bit, the words that are recognizable lose their meaning and become pure sound - parts of the rhythm. and/but also, like David Mahler's Hearing Voices , the tiny chopped speech lets us hear every part of a single sound, minuscule moments, isolated, and dissected to their basic parts.
It is also impossible for me to not mention Wobbly's Wild Why , which this tape is most akin to. (This is not a bad thing! I listened to that album with reckless abandon for a good month... mind blowing, if you haven't heard it - please, find a copy right away!) though while Wobbly is throwing fire crackers at your feet from his BMX, id m is in the woods, melting mirrors with a flamethrower.
entrancing and completely consuming.

http://kraag.org/
http://kraag.org/mangdisc/

(and now that I am done writing this very first review of mine, upon putting in the links above, it seems like maybe this isn't an available release! well, keep an eye out all the same...)

Monday, April 13, 2009

TRAVELS "Dripping Down The Walls" c20 (905 Tapes)




For a period of time in my life I was uncharacteristically drawn towards the mythology of warfare and the military. I know for some people the 'dark' side of humanity 'rules' and the order and discipline of enlisted life meshes perfectly with their choices but for me it always had an air of the unreal, something not of this world that didn't mesh with any of my logical choices and as a result I couldn't get enough.
Many of the most famous war movies are also my favorites, Deer Hunter shares the upward realms along with Apocalypse Now, Thin Red Line and Full Metal Jacket among a host of others not necessary to list in order to understand this tape. Of those movies Apocalypse & Thin Red Line each share a certain quiet element to them that is in complete contrast to that which is actually being experienced; how in the world can chaos be so placid? How do you distinguish between detachment and focus?

The scene comes to mind wherein Martin Sheen arrives at the bridge under bombardment, with fireworks and gunfire meshing perfectly the question he keeps asking is "who is your C.O?...Who is in charge? Who is the commanding officer?" To which he gets an "I thought you were" for an answer. This loss of / gaining of control lends itself perfectly to the aforementioned disassociation. At what point are we listening for a lead and do we expect, from the chaos, there to be a distinct (in the case of this tape sonorous) intent. 'Dripping down the walls' imposes one side of aftershock inducing chaos and a second side that relents just enough to expose a skeleton of what's attacking you but never enough to suggest yr going to be able to tell the fireworks from the gunfire.

Full color cover of melting dude (though in a domestic setting) works perfectly with the analogy. Edition of 33, still in print:
http://www.905tapes.com

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

BIG KIDS/PHASED OUT: “Friends Don’t Die” split c20

To continue with the news from Vermont, although Brattleboro’s Tinderbox, an amazing, central studio and performance space, has sadly closed for good, leaving the city nearly barren of interesting live music, it turns out things are still bubbling behind closed doors. What I’m trying to say is, this tape totally rules, I love it. If there were a best of 2009 list for me to contribute to, this would definitely be on it. Two quartets, fucked as punks, indecipherable lyrics, blowing out doors, and just generally being loud, fast, and full of audio clips from movies about skateboarding.

Big Kids have a pretty crisp sound, evenly recorded with killer screeching vocals, while Phased Out went more with the dogshit style of recording that I have a very tender place in my heart for, the way super loud instruments sound to a portable tape recorder placed in the middle of the room. Kind of surprising considering they’ve got some pretty complicated instrumentation executed by simultaneous members of bands like Witch and King Tuff. Nevertheless, it’s duly appreciated.

Xeroxed inserts, edition of 200. Only available by mailorder, and almost out of stock!

http://www.myspace.com/phasedoutloccosonly
http://www.myspace.com/bigkidzz

Sunday, April 5, 2009

NERVE CITY: “HELL” c17 (Amateur Depression)

I gotta admit, I was kind of disappointed when I actually looked this up online and realized that the BAND is called Nerve City and the TAPE is called “Hell”, because at first I was like “Damn, this dude has serious balls! How audacious is that to call your band ‘Hell’?” With that misconception in mind, I didn’t know what to expect, but this is a really great, albeit brief, listen. Somewhere between the lonesome drifting of Mammal and the jangly semi-surf pop that’s currently taking New York by storm (i.e. Crystal Stilts, Blank Dogs, etc.) lies Nerve City, where a distant voice from a swinging telephone sings to you from the end of a tunnel over steady gusts of guitar and the occasional drum or organ. With three songs per side, this Richmond, Virginia loner vibe merchant Jason Boyer (who also indentifies himself with the omega symbol, sort of like Prince and his funky ankh) drifts by quickly enough to knock your hat off, but slowly enough to get a good whiff of what’s in the air.

Spraypainted, orange-foil tapes with xeroxed inserts.

http://www.myspace.com/nervecity
http://www.myspace.com/amateurdepression

Sunday, March 29, 2009

TATERBUG: “Boys of the Feather” c20 (Night People)


The directions that come with this tape instruct the listener to “play loud on weed”. I didn’t actually do either of those things, I just sort of laid on my bed and stared at branches out the window, reels spinning at normal volume, which worked out fine all the same. What first attracted me to this was Shawn Reed’s killer jack-o-skeleton cover art, but on “Boys of the Feather”, Iowa City’s most prominent resident dead head, the Taterbug, creepy crawls his way over a handful of songs of light chimes, Jefferson Airplane tape vacations, and Daniel Johnston-esque balladry. I make the comparison due to it sounding as if it was recorded directly to an old boombox just like Johnston’s early recordings, and when the Taterbug decides to sing, he wails just the same way, especially on the title track as he plucks away at what sounds like a one-string guitar. I’m pretty sure he even sits down at a chord organ at one point. Now, I’m not trying to make a DIRECT comparison between the two here, I know it sounds like I am, but I’m not, I swear (tugs collar). Although the execution is relatable, this really is in a world of it’s own, a world of sunny fields and floppy felt hats, unshaven armpits and really nice dogs. You guessed it, it’s a hippy dream, the kind of psychedelic that just trips out naturally without a million effects pedals and an 18-ft. high TV screen. I want to hug this guy, I want to hang out with this guy. Simplistic songs, bedroom brilliance at it’s best, and a great way to get ready for summer. Also, look out for his upcoming work with Ryan Garbes in the garage-pop band, Dunebuggy.

Comes with silkscreen J-card and xeroxed inserts in an edition of 100.

http://www.raccoo-oo-oon.org/np/
http://www.myspace.com/stayfarout

Saturday, March 28, 2009

DANIEL HIGGS: “Devotional Songs of Daniel Higgs” c90 (Open Mouth)


Listening to this made me realize that every time a current folk singer’s songs are described as hymns, that it’s incredibly unfounded. On “Devotional Songs”, Daniel Higgs actually has a song that repeats the word “amen” with the same structure as any you might hear in church. There are really a lot of lyrical concepts covered here, including things like outer space, the universe, and religion, all of which are incredibly deep, none of which I understand, so I won’t attempt to write about them. This isn’t an unappreciated confusion though, it piques the curiosity and creates the desire to interpret, at least for one’s self.

Higgs primarily uses banjo and guitar (and organ on one occasion) and, this is going to sound cliche, I know, but his ululating voice really does act as it’s own instrument, running a gamut of ranges that would never make sense on paper over his lightning fast finger-picking. Incredibly long (well over an hour), and modestly recorded, at one point even talking to the listener as he pauses to open a window, this is basically a wet dream for the Harry Smith of the future. I was never really interested in his previous band, Lungfish, but after hearing this, I think it’s time to visit the back catalog of this modern-day mystic.

Comes with color labels and insert.

http://www.openmouthtapes.com/

Thursday, March 19, 2009

GULLWING: s/t c20 (Basement Tapes)


I want to start this by writing about the packaging for this tape. It’s kind of a bummer. It doesn’t stack, it doesn’t shelve, and no one I know has the kind of table space to set aside for items like this. I like handmade stuff as much as the next person, and I appreciate the effort put into this, but not only does it not close, but the tape doesn’t even fit into it properly, hence the copious amounts of string and glue. There’s creative, and then there’s unreasonable.

That being said, the actual music within is a whole different matter. Baltimore’s Bryan Rhodes, half of the Cutest Puppy in the World, creates a very strange listen that I’m not positive about on execution, whether it’s all original work or edited from other sources or both, which I guess is the point as it’s described as “musique concréte”, layering thick clouds of electroacoustic sound. Side A is heavy on the strings and, unable to separate the band name and the music, I couldn’t shake the image of a seagull fighting to maintain stable flight in a coastal wind storm, the same kind of din made by the crashing waves in “Fantasia”. The sound stays pretty consistent throughout, whereas side B is a smooth, gradual change of jazz forms starting with more eclectic, improvisational works and then slowly sliding into an “adult contemporary”, NPR-safe style, while a foundation of upright bass laces it all together. Worth checking out if you already have a series of gallery pedestals or a curio cabinet to keep your folk art in.

http://www.myspace.com/gullwingdoors
http://www.myspace.com/boilerroomemissions

GRASSHOPPER "Kindertotenlieder" c22 (Baked Tapes)


I don't know if you call it serendipity or 'the noise scene being tiny' but just saw these guys played live out here in western mass and really enjoyed it, got a few tapes from Jesse who runs Baked Tapes outta new york and when I got home I said "should listen to some cassette gods jams" and sure enough, top of the damn pile, there's a tape by these guys. Jammed the tape and, though different from their live set, still really enjoyed it.

Grasshopper is a duo both using trumpet and electronics and though brass / wind instruments have been establishing some pretty solid footing in the 'noise' scene the last few years, these guys approach it less from the lineage of free jazz. Well, that's probably not fair at all but they apply a lot less skronk to their palate amd in some parts there are even suggestions of melody or at least the phrasing is consistent enough that you know there's a rhyme to their crime and for me it was a great combination. The timbre of a couple of fucked up inharmonious horns mixed with the 'warmth' of their electronics (which it seemed was often sourced from their horns) was a solid match.

I'm sort of writing interchangeably about their live show and tape because the cumulative effect was similar though it's worth mentioning that the tape is a bit more subdued and the listening is a little more long form. Good stuff both on magnetic tape and in yr face, check em out if possible.

Real nice 'metal' artwork and lettering printed black on vellum.
Not up on the Baked Tapes site yet, but check back or just write to him!
http://www.thebakeryfloor.com/bt/

and their myspace for some sound clips, etc.
www.myspace.com/karlmalonelarrybird

REVERSE MOUTH "Wizard of porks / Garbage Empress" c24 (Deep Fried Tapes)




Remember in thriller when Vincent Price says "Darkness rolls across the land" and the music has been mixed down a bit and tightened up with the bass line carrying the song? He goes on and on about the bugs and dying and everything and it's awesome because it's Vincent Price and Thriller is like the most popular record ever and Michael Jackson is spooning a fuggin TIGER on the cover. Well, what would have ruled more is if Vincent Price said all that stuff and then the music faded away and this tape came on, full focus, right up the noise nose into the listener's mind space and maybe Reverse Mouth could have just illustrated what vincent was saying, people decaying, worms crawling in my eyeballs and all the while this totally tense and not-necessarily jarring, but really really uneasy music just carried the listener back to the zombie dance. That shit woulda been extra scary, and it woulda been dope to be in Reverse Mouth because you could be like "i made the music to the breakdown in thriller, yeah, you know, the really intense and scary part." Also, it'd be dope to be in Reverse Mouth because you'd be in a good band.

Printed in an edition of 50, still available from the label,
which it's worth noting, has a TON of great stuff out.
http://www.deepfriedtapes.org/

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

THE JAGUAR "Primal Dimension" c30? (Sky Fi Industries)




First off, I have to say that a name like "The Jaguar" for a band is bordering on daring. You remember the trend among avant-indie groups a while back to drop "the" from their animal band name specifically because it got ANNOYING and a million people were doing it, not necessarily because the bands were awesome. That's one reason you notice the conspicuous "The" at the beginning. The article is also significant because it suggest that this dude is THE singular, all powerful, not to be reckoned with Jaguar, unlike any other non-descript jungle animal. This dude is a definite article!

Anyway, this tape is a good listen, though it doesn't stand out like Clint Eastwood does if here were named something like "The Jag." Allusions to Eastwood are probably misleading anyways considering this tape has a definite 'sci-fi' vibe to it. You can totally picture the b-movie 'control panel' flashing and some dude in a spray painted jump suit forcing a frightened "i can't control her!" out. Though not to relegate this tape to the bloopy, semi-synth space station- there's a lot more going on.

The first side has some nice gargled voice moments and a real nice horn section / electronics on opium vibe wraps it up; also notable is what sounds like electronics if you could play them with a bottleneck slide. The second side is a lot thicker and artery clogged, sounds not so much like burning yr bridges as it does letting off a smoke bomb at the baby shower.

Black and white covers on yellow paper, yellow transparent tapes.
Edition of 125, still available from the label:
http://www.skyfi-industries.com/

Sunday, March 15, 2009

THE DEAD BARON: “The Great Tape Escape” c20 (Wheaton Records)


The familial bass & drum duo of Stevo and Marcus Lazcano riff out on this single song per side display of headbangerage. And when I say riff, I mean RIFF. These guys entrench themselves into a groove and they stick to it. I’m not exactly saying that it’s a good thing, to be honest, the songs don’t really seem to go anywhere. The assumed vocals are nearly inaudible and the the drums tend to overpower the entire recording. Also, it’s actually only about 16 minutes long, with about four minutes of silence after the first track, and with titles like “Art is Dead” and “Noise on the March”, it tends to give off a sneaking dispostion of being sort of uninspired. I’m not saying that all of these are shortcomings either, I can see this being a really great live show, harkening to the bump’n’thud of something like Olneyville Sound System. I’m uncertain, but I also think this is their first formal release, so although it leaves a little to be desired, they still have plenty of time to develop their sound. We’re already tapping our feet, that’s gotta be half the battle.

Comes with B&W xerox insert, limited edition of 50 copies.

http://wheatonrecords.com/

Friday, March 13, 2009

SHEP & ME/CAETHUA: s/t split

I don’t actually know who put this out, how long it is, or anything like that. Dan Beckman handed it to me and there’s no indentifying marks except for who is on it and on which side, that’s it. Nonetheless, I’m going to try and write about it as cohesively as possible. Both of these artists currently hail from Belfast, Maine and although they both can be described as “experimental folk” (for the sake of putting names on things), there’s definitely enough of a contrast between the two, with Shep’s caterwaul opposite Caethua’s ambience, to make for an interesting listen.

Shep and Me is the identity of Matthew Himes and friends, howling balladry over low-volume, fuzzed-out guitars, dogs barking, and electronics rattling. Himes’ voice is gruff yet high-pitched, warm and inviting, like a campfire, you want to be near it, but certainly not in it. This is full-on campfire music, sitting on picnic tables underneath the canopy on a scout trip.

Caethua is Clare Hubbard, who can also be seen in the improv noise band D.B.H. and her own totally fucked rap act, Sports. Although she shows her incredible singer/songwriter chops on both piano and acoustic guitar in this format, she doesn’t leave the noise behind, connecting all of her songs into one long track with garbled organics of birds singing and water boiling (at least that’s what it sounds like).

Comes with a one-color silkscreen insert. I don’t know where you can find it, but I think this might actually be a preview of songs to be put on an LP or something in the future. That’s totally unfounded, but keep your ear to the ground because it’s worth hunting for.

This has in fact been released on LP here in the future world of 2011. check out Himes' label, Lighten Up Sounds - Ed.

http://www.saxwand.com/
http://www.myspace.com/shepandme

Thursday, March 5, 2009

HITTY TITTY: “Wee Tee Kah Way Loh” c21 (self-released)


Incredibly cermonial in its execution, Hitty Titty sounds like a Victorian era tea party dance ritual performed by powder poofs affected by years of inbreeding, frolicking in rich, feathered costume, deformed but dedicated.

Molly Colleen O’Connell is a musician/illustrator living in Baltimore and, this being her first formal outing, I think there’s a lot to look forward to from her. Using gentle electronics and baroque yodeling, she weaves a delicate and brief birdsong reminiscent of acts like Lucky Dragons and Lexie Mt. Boys which, for a first recording, is mind-blowing. Superior production and killer packaging (you get all that you see above) make for an incredibly enjoyable listen with tons of replay value. You’ll be flippin’ this one all day long.

http://www.myspace.com/hittytitty
http://www.lostghostsrecords.com/ (in the distro section)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

AMBERGRIS: “Anti-Matter Alma Mater” (Potlatch, I Gather Tapes)

To continue with George’s theme of label debuts, along comes Matthew Thurber’s Potlatch, I Gather, a tape label dedicated to releasing “books on tape”, radio-play type stories with musical backgrounds of Thurber’s own creation. This first release was used as the soundtrack to an art exhibit of the same name done in collaboration with Rebecca Bird and appearing in both Switzerland and Brooklyn last year. It follows the story of a character named Charles who returns to his old school, the Carrot University of Time Travel, for a class reunion. He begins talking to an old classmate and former girlfriend, a twin made of crystal, who tries to jog his amnesia-affected memory of his past, but he continues to only draw a blank as his frontal lobe has been stolen, presumably by a third, malcontented classmate. With bells and chimes reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons audio adventures, and Thurber’s distinct brand of Beefheart calypso, he spins this tale of desperation on side one. But on side two, entitled “Wormhole”, he stays strictly musical and details through his lyrics how, as he writes, “the same characters find themselves trapped in a Wormhole for all eternity, due to poor study skills”. Although the overlaps of voices can become confusing at times, the story is still relatively straightforward and, being adept at keyboard, ukulele, and saxophone, the composition of the music proves itself as remarkably proficient.

If you still can’t follow the story, you can pick up one of his comics, which oftentimes contain stories involving the same characters and concepts from Picturebox books. If you still can’t figure out what’s going on after that, I don’t know what to tell you.

Comes with xerox insert and paint pen, hand-decorated tapes.

http://www.ambiguousmass.org/
http://www.myspace.com/ambergrisjr

Monday, March 2, 2009

SWORD OF THE ANCIENT: “head of the tide” (Trd W/d)

Just as a cold wind whispers secrets in your ear, standing in an abandoned, but not yet dilapidated house that you wandered into through the woods in your backyard, such is Sword of the Ancient. Kristen Myers and Amy Moon O.S., both members of Uke of Spaces Corners County, head out on their own with these ghost moans and dulcet tones, like a femalular Russian Tsarlag, seemingly there to scare, but actually apparitioning just to comfort and maybe tell a story or two. Like white witches singing siren spells, every instrument on this tape has a voice. I’ve never heard a violin speak with such tragic loss. Drum drones and chants lull you into a dream and have you singing their incantations like “pencil, pencil, paper” and “I’m going to talk and talk until my face falls off” long afterward.

I’m unsure of the actual length, but it’s LONG, eight songs per side, a really full listen, bang for your buck (if you want to put it that way). Comes with xeroxed insert in clear poly box.

P.O. Box 286
Belfast, ME
04915

BLUE SABBATH BLACK FIJI: “The Night Hawk” c30 (Dokuro)


French guitar duo, now living in Ireland, BSBF are a psychedelic onslaught of tropical space bananas, both shredding and surfing their six-strings over an erlenmeyer flask full of rainbow waves. Side A alternates between Star Trek red alerts and galactic steel drums, bouncing dissonance and disco Cylons, while side B is a more direct endeavor of Sonic Youth-riffs over grunged-up drum machine, closing your eyes and doing head circles to take your chi outside and stretch it’s muscles. A vivid and varied listen without traveling too far out of it’s own solar system.

Comes with full-color wraparound covers and labels, sold out from Dokuro, but should still be available from various distros. With a number of tapes and CD-Rs under their belt, and more on the way, you can definitely find something by them somewhere on the World Wide Web.

http://www.myspace.com/bluesabbathblackfiji

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NO SOUND: “Gay KK” dbl-cs (Feeding Tube Records)


No Sound’s Ted Lee self-releases the soundtrack to his new movie, “Gay KK”, a menacing onslaught of cut-ups and reflections with the ongoing symbol of a pink triangle-shaped mask. Lee is an incredible documentarian, taping nearly every live show in Western Massachusetts, but here we find him picking up on the subtleties of the everyday objects that surround him and showing how an idea as simple as talking on the phone next to a lake can be made into compelling filmmaking. This double cassette covers most, if not all of the ground covered in the movie, starting out with hypnotic accordion pumps and rapid-fire sound clips that are impressively epic in their arrangement, like a lo-fi “2001”. This is followed by a somewhat exhausting live set, only because of the calamitous recording not fully capturing all of the subtleties of his set-up of demon-fast drumming and ring modulated vocals. The guy really does have an incredible amount of energy.
Tape two takes more of a “straightforward” approach with Lee playing quizzical pop songs while jumping from instrument to instrument, including organ, guitar, drums, and even layered vocals. A satisfying portrayal of a confusing mind.
Comes in a white cassette album with color cover and sticker in an edition of 35. This might already be sold out, but he has a new GOLD vinyl LP, and you can see most of the film here, as well as an endless amount of other interesting footage. You can probably throw out your TV now.

http://www.myspace.com/nosounddelights

Saturday, February 28, 2009

ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE "Buffalo Hump, Moon Face, Thin Skin" c20 (Grimology Records)




Just had a conversation with my friend Sam from Brattleboro about the "scene" in vermont, trading notes on the few things we knew about and him giving me the low-down on a few things i didn't know anything about. Sure enough a package arrives today from self described "frozen northern vermont" from the Matt @ the Grimology label, something neither Sam nor I knew about, probably because it's like 2 hours of frozen wilderness away. Well, either way, its on the unfrozen internet now, so you all have no excuse.

This tape by Israeli Intelligence hailing from California, titled "Buffalo Hump, Moon Face, Thin Skin" is a real scorcher; two ten minute sides of unrelenting mischief and burn. Not so much like a wildfire out of control turning rich people's estates in embers, but more like a high pressure blast furnace on the intense end of the sound spectrum and on the other end with occasional breaks and voiced outbursts the burn would be better described as a semi-toxic melting plastic toys on yr dad's grill type of sound. Does music actually sound like that? Did I just describe a tape as sounding somewhere between a blast furnace and a pyromaniac 11 year old? Jeez...

Anyway, some good stuff on here in particular the ascending bass tones and vocal stuff that peers through the wall of noises make for a more dynamic listen. It makes sense a totally snowed in igloo-crew would be psyched on playing / releasing this stuff in their house driven near mad by months of trying to fight off hail, ice and hypothermia all the while dreaming of a white hot california sun burn.

Black and white cover features a totally googley-eyed dude that reminds
me of that scene in Un Chien Andalou where they cut that guys eye in half
that almost makes me puke every time.

Edition of 50, still available from the label:
http://www.grimeology.com/home.html

Friday, February 27, 2009

ORDINARY MACHINERY: “Stand While Fields Pass” c20 (Three Songs of Lenin)


I’m not particularly well-versed when it comes to field recordings. In fact, this is probably the first one I’ve listened to where any part isn’t prefaced by “do you know what animal makes this sound?”. Nonetheless, Scott “Work/Death” Reber makes this one a memorable listen. The only notes included within are “recorded while others slept, at work under highways, near electricity, and refrigeration”. Apparently, Scott has been working third shift for the last few years and, combining said sounds of car tires bumping, water dripping, and white noise buzzes, he totally expemplifies that feeling of dancing around the border into late night mania when left to one’s own devices. Sometimes harsh, but always ambient, you’re left almost nervous when the tape clicks off and the hum disappears, like the silence of a power outage. This isn’t his frist endeavor into “found sound” editing but, without downplaying his other releases, I found this to be surprisingly dynamic and probably my favorite thing I’ve heard from him thus far.
Comes in Scott’s signature packaging style of Crass fonts and neutral 2-color screenprint insert.

PO Box 29680
Prov., RI 02909

Thursday, February 26, 2009

CARCINOGENIC STATIC CARNIVAL: "Live at Zebulon" (Massdist)

I'm always in admiration of musicians who challenge themselves to work outside of their assumed confines, those that have the ability to branch out to other genres while still carrying the charisma of their regular work with them. Colin Langenus is the embodiment of this lifestyle, playing every single type of music from rap to blues to folk, and now, with this arrangement, funk. "Live at Zebulon" find Langenus gathering his friends once again for another epic project chronicled here in four long but killer tracks.
What I enjoy about Langenus is that he never does anything half-assed. Any other person trying their hand at this would just play the music, same ol' line-up, bass, drums, and guitar. What Langenus possesses is an inherit knowledge of what makes music great, how to make a full sound, in this case, adding various horns and, this is what totally does it for me, JAZZ FLUTE. The result is easily comparable to any of Stevie Wonder's earlier works, keenly dead-on instrumentation. Although a little more King Crimson than Parliament at times, the more intensely rocking parts take nothing away, they just make you want to bob your head even more. I suppose most ears might define this as "noise-funk", but the noise feels pretty minimal on this, just slight background gurgle on the last track. This is really more a display of the talent of the musicians within than anything else. If there's anything I'm disappointed about in Langenus' side projects from Usaisamonster, it's that they aren't given a larger light. Given, I might be slightly biased as his solo album, "Living with the Rock", is one of my favorite albums of all time, but considering the strength of most of his discography, I'm gonna keep buying what he's selling.

http://massivedistribution.com/

HORSE BOYS: s/t c40 (OSR Tapes)


Zach Phillips, Northeastern man about town and relentless musician breaks out his piano chops on this c-40 of lo-fi songsmithing. Zach can also be seen in bands like Cave Bears, Sord, Heat Wilson, Snake Guts, and his electronic project, Nals Goring, but this tape finds him cutting out all the extras and making simple but ideally produced songs, and a lot of them, 38 to be precise. Mostly titled with a structure of “What is ‘X’ Like”, the songs are sometimes fast and panicky, but mostly more relaxed, leisurely strolls across classic novels you’ve been meaning to read, think Erik Satie after a couple cups of coffee recording on a boom box at home. Gently peppered with some field recordings and tape collage, these songs could easily be the soundtrack to a Michel Gondry movie, best listened to with headphones on rainy afternoons, doing crossword puzzles or writing to friends.
Edition of 100, comes in a handmade sleeve with color copy insert.

http://osr-tapes.info
http://www.myspace.com/horseboys

LYRTHAS: "Drink the Blood..." (self-released)

Lyrthas is the nom de plume of Lane Milburn, prominent member of the Closed Caption Comics group based in Baltimore, MD and formerly 1/3 of the black metal trio, Witch Hat. In this independent endeavor, Milburn modestly packages his work with all black & white materials, recycles major label tapes, and even notes that these are "demo recordings 2007-2008". I use the word "modest" because this feels like far too little for such an epic piece of work.
I'm not particularly familiar with metal in general beyond GWAR and Black Sabbath, but Milburn compares himself to Mercyful Fate, Destruction, and Accept. All I know is that this is what I wish all metal could be, 7 tracks and 24 minutes of super speed on one side that's over before you want it to be. Milburn does all of the instrumentation himself, playing guitar and drum machine (I think), as well as providing eerie vocals and the occasional organ accompaniment. This is basically like walking, no, RUNNING through a haunted house. Or woods. Or a haunted anything while fleeing in terror from winged demons, the point is that the mania this provides can turn any day into Halloween. Proof that the nicest guys are the ones most harsh.
Apparently, this is the first Lyrthas work since 2003, so one can only hope that it isn't another 5 years before the next one sees the light of day. This is the first tape I've actually ever made copies of for friends. Embrace the darkness.

http://www.closedcaptioncomics.blogspot.com

FLORIS VAN HOOF: "A Fudge Too Much" c42 (Breaking World Records)

I'd like to preface this by first saying that I have liked every single tape, record, CD-R, etc. that George Myers has ever released. In the world of independent record labels, Breaking World is king in quality, packaging, nearly every facet is well-considered. Given, he recently broke a catalog number of 100, so he's had some time to perfect his process.
This tape came shortly after a recent tour with his band, Grey Skull, to Europe, and as far as I know, he is the first to officially bring Van Hoof to the US, and I am more than ecstatic that he has done so. There's no such thing as "perfect" in any medium, but as far as noise tapes are concerned, this at least makes for a really great archetype.
Side A starts with the song "Boing", primarily electronic beats doing as they're titled, pleasantly bouncing around amidst rhythmic bursts of static. This slowly works its way into "Fudge", a deep, layered, organic drone sparsely peppered with a lo-fi exterior of the sound of tapes being ejected and flipped, and I also think I heard a phone ringing. Side B continues this darker vibe with "Thunderfunder", a one-man semblance to the "thunder drum" featured in Sun Ra's "Strange Strings", eventually dissolving into 8-bit mayhem alarms that slide their way into the final track "Sandworm", stylistically bringing the whole thing full circle. Typically, I hate really long tapes, but this c42 covers a lot of ground without ever becoming drawn out. This is the first thing I would give to someone who wanted to learn more about tape trading, or even the potential of electronic music beyond the "Pitchfork Favorites" regulars. This is only Van Hoof's fourth formally released recording, so I think we have a lot to look forward to from this fella.

http://www.endlesswebsite.tk/
http://www.breakingworldrecords.com/